13-month-old Jacob is really walking these days. He can handle uneven terrain, he can get up without help or anything to support him, he can pivot and turn. He takes great delight in his new abilities. Sometimes he just walks laps around the kitchen and laughs with glee. It’s fabulous to watch, and even though I’ve seen this before with my daughter Hannah, it never gets old. I bet you it would still be miraculous to see if I had 12 children.
I could not wait for those first steps. I wondered when my little man would stop clinging to my hands, and then my hand, and then just my finger for dear life. When he would have the confidence to venture forth on his own. I was so eager and excited on his behalf. Let’s face it, watching a baby master new skills is inspiring and exciting.
And then Jacob reached the same point that I remember Hannah reaching. He went from sort of being able to walk but mostly crawling, to walking. It was as if he just got up one morning and decided, “All right, then, henceforth I shall walk.” And he did. He falls down, and he gets back up. He doesn’t resort to crawling when the distances are great or he wants speed. Sometimes he even walks with no particular destination in mind. (Or, at least, no destination that I can see.)
But. But. It’s suddenly become very bittersweet for me. I offer Jacob my hand, and he bats it away. I try to help him up, and he declines. I kneel in front of him with my arms out and he walks around me. He is going places, and he doesn’t need my help to get there thankyouverymuch. I was handy as a sort of learning aid, but he’s not learning anymore. And I feel sad.
Parenting is this dance. You’re trying to help your kids learn new skills, and it’s fun. You help them on the path to independence and you love each other fiercely and that’s all good. But the inevitable outcome is that they, well, become independent. Sometimes, when I am alone with two cranky children and it’s dinnertime and I’m all out of ideas and don’t want to cook that sounds fabulous. I dream of being able to say, “Fend for yourselves, children, and make a little extra for me.” But the truth is that I will miss this time terribly, when I was the sun, moon and stars to two little people. I know I will.
I can’t be the only one who becomes nostalgic every time my kids master a new skill. I know I can’t. Please, commiserate with me as my baby turns into a toddler before my very eyes.